As a 17 year old high school student, I have been giving lots of thought toward graduating from college debt free. I know that it isn’t easy, but I also think that being saddled with thousands of dollars of student loan debt when I’m in my twenties is SO MUCH WORSE. I am totally committed to graduating debt free and have chosen to be ‘dual enrolled’ in my last two years of high school in order to make that dream a reality.
My name is Eva Baker. I started a website, Teens Got Cents, this year devoted to all things personal finance specifically for teens and their families.
What Is Dual Enrollment?
Dual enrollment varies somewhat from state to state, so be sure to check for your state’s specific requirements. However, the basic idea is that high school juniors and seniors are allowed to attend their local community college and take classes. These classes will count both for high school graduation requirements and for college credit. Some programs issue books to participants and some do not. The program that I participate in covers all of the tuition and fees (except the $25 application fee) but I have to pay for all of my books. I also happen to be limited to two classes per semester as a dual enrolled student – or I would probably be attending full time! Again, you will have to check with your own community college to find out all the details.
My local school makes it very easy to navigate the dual enrollment system. There are guidance counselors at each campus who will meet with you personally. My mom and I made an appointment with one of the counselors and she walked us step by step through the process. She even assisted us in finding and signing up for the classes that I wanted to take for my first semester. (You should contact the school at least six months before you hope to start classes. It can be a long process!) Our guidance counselor made an intimidating process seem much easier. The school also hosted a ‘New Student Day’ before the semester began. All new students were invited to come to the campus from 9 am – 12 pm on a Saturday. A number of professors were there, student government leaders were present and they gave campus tours throughout the morning. We were also able to get our campus ID and a parking pass that morning. Oh, and they had an amazing breakfast for us. I was so happy! They gave each attendee a little drawstring backpack so that we had a place to put everything. It was a privilege to meet the campus President and she even agreed to do an interview with me on TeensGotCents!
How Much Am I Saving?
Yesterday I took a close look at the receipts from both of my classes. I am taking an American Federal Government class (ughhhhh) and an American Sign Language (so interesting!) class. The Government class is a three hour class and would have cost $308.74. The ASL class is a four hour class and would have cost $435.52. In just this one semester I have saved $744.26. If that is the average for all four semesters and I take a summer class next year, I estimate an overall savings of about $3,285.78.
Taking advantage of the dual enrollment program is a great option for many students, especially those who are willing to work a little harder to get good grades at the college level. I am really motivated by the savings. That’s over three thousand dollars that I will not have to pay myself or get a student loan to cover!
Another unexpected benefit to being a dual enrolled student is that I qualify for the Amazon Student program. If you have a student email address (issued by the college) and are attending school then you qualify! They offer free two day shipping for all students. You get the membership for free for the first six months and then have the opportunity to purchase Prime for the discounted rate of $39. At that time you also get free instant streaming of thousands of movies as well as free kindle downloads. I’m may just go for the free option and cancel after the first six months. And I’m sure you would understand if you saw how much my books cost! What a racket…but that’s a post for another day.
I hope that you will come and visit me over at TeensGotCents.com. It’s all about shopping smart, going to college debt free, getting a great part time job or starting your own business as a teen. And my mom writes for parents as well. You can find me on Facebook and Twitter – hope to see you soon!